Friday, March 30, 2007

Sixteen Music Groups for Josh

This morning I took Josh to National Airport for his trip to San Antonio. This week I did a count of the number of music groups in which he has participated since last July. I listed them on a paper and was shocked to discover that there have been 16 different groups.

Several of the groups meet all day for three to four days while others have longer term demands. Still others like the Ambassadors have a heavy time demand over four to six weeks.

Here is the list:
- Corps band
- Corps songsters
- VA Ambassadors band (Europe group)
- VA Ambassador choir
- Oakton Marching Cougars
- Oakton Jazz I
- Oakton Symphonic Band (leed trombone)
- Oakton Concert I (clarinet)
- District Band
- VA Tech Honor Band
- George Mason Honor Band
- Oakton Brass
- Orchestra
- Crossmen
- Wizard of Oz pit orchestra
- Concert II (trombone fill in for four weeks going into the Myrtle Beach competion)

And into the mix there is weekly lessons.

Yesterday, Josh received his SAT scores. He scored very well and will not be redoing the SAT to improve his scores (many high school students take the exams two to three times). Josh's scores are well above what he needs to get into the three colleges of his choice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Photo Challenge - Signs of Spring, Picture III

For my last signs of spring picture I was looking for something that is uncommon. I did not want to settle for baseball or softball practices or people tending to gardens. I knew what I wanted and was fortunate to catch it this afternoon as I passed over the Roosevelt Bridge. Repairing of this unique wall happens each Spring just as the cherry blossoms start to come out (the new block are evident).

Above is the wall and the crane that is pulling out the damaged blocks and replacing them with the new or refurbished blocks. The blocks are concrete and are hinged together. This bridge spans the Potomac River, with DC on the east and Virginia on the west (the bridge is DC territory until the high water mark on the western shore). As you will see the west bound traffic is three lanes with one going into the off ramp...the east bound side at the time the picture was taken is four lanes wide.

Early in the afternoon the wall is moved so that the west bound traffic goes to four lanes for the outbound rush hour. Normally the wall moves at noon but with the repair underway, at 2 PM it was not yet moved.

Below is the machine that moves the blocks to the north side each afternoon and then south mid evening for the inbound rush hour the next morning.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

James Madison University

Below are pictures of the heart of the James Madison campus taken while attending the jazz event there on Saturday. This is the university is located in Harrisonburg VA, about two hours from home and in the heart of the Shannendoah Valley.

Currently JMU is Josh's first choice in colleges. JMU which is a mid-sized college started off as a teacher's college.

The above picture is of the music building which is located at the bottom of the "U" around the central park.

The above picture is of the administration building which is at the heart of the "U".

The above is the old part of the library. The new part of the library, with the main entrance, is attached to the back.

The stonework is bluestone, which is used in most of the non-residential buildings across the campus.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Photo Challenge - Signs of Spring 2

Below are two pics to be taken together as the second signs of spring. The cherry trees are just starting to bloom. These two pictures are put forward as one picture. This particular tree is on the campus of James Madison in Harrisonburg. Rain had been falling a short time before we arrived for the jazz event.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Signs of Spring - Picture I

Here is the first "signs of spring" picture. It is a sign that spring is arriving when painting outside starts in earnest. The exterior brick and trim of place is being painted.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Living in Washington DC - VI

The City of Washington DC is exactly 21 square miles. In those 21 square miles there are 25 photo radars to catch speeders. Also, there are 23 permanent intersection cameras to catch people going through red lights, and 7 movable intersection cameras. These radar machines are a major source of revenue for the City. They have also helped to slow down traffic along major streets and through certain neighborhoods.

The manufacturer states the cameras are to be calibrated every six months. To save money the city did not maintain a regular calibration schedule. Three people who received tickets in the last months asked when the cameras that caught them had been calibrated. The City would not release the information so the three people petitioned the court. A judge asked for a report and examination to be on his desk within a week. It was discovered that about 30% on the intersection cameras were malfunctioning and the City had shut them down. About 45% of the radar cameras were not close to recording the correct speed.

The last major recalibration was done in October 2005. The judge ordered the City to refund anyone who had been ticketed by most of the cameras in the last ten months. The only cameras not covered were cameras that underwent significant repairs between March 06 and August 06. The City is quickly fixing the cameras and getting them properly recalibrated. The City’s attempt to save money costs them a bundle. Living in this area, you get use to some strange thinking from officials associated with the City of Washington DC.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

DYB, SAT and Festival

Jonathan was away at camp Friday evening and Saturday for DYB. This was their last rehearsal prior to Youth Councils in two weeks. Normally when he goes to camp in the winter we have him take the keys for the RV so that he can turn the engine over for five or so minutes. Friday morning he took the wrong set of keys on the lanyard…he took Evie’s office keys in error. We gave him a ribbing about not noticing the difference.

For Josh this weekend was SAT and Concert Band Festival. Saturday morning he spent four hours taking the SAT. He returned home just after 1:00 and was off along with Evie to the school around 3:30. As Josh plays clarinet in Concert II he was at the Festival Friday night as well as late Saturday afternoon with the Symphonic Band. Evie spent Friday and Saturday on concert band chaperone duty.

Starting Friday afternoon twenty-four or so concert bands throughout the area have been going through an adjudication process that gives each band a score with comments. The grades go from I (superior) to IV (poor). Before three adjudicators (one of them this year is the Executive Director of Winnipeg Symphony) each band normally performs three items, one of which must be a march. Oakton’s Symphonic Band performed only two items since one very lengthy demanding piece with four movements counted as two items.

After the band performs their prepared items in the concert hall, the band goes to the band room where they are given a sight reading item to review in five minutes before performing it before a fourth adjudicator. All three Oakton Bands received a superior rating (Concert II did get one II from a judge but I from the other three…Concert I and Symphonic got straight Is).

To be a State Honor Band a school must receive a superior grade at the State’s Marching Band Competition and a superior grade at Festivals. After one year’s absence Oakton has returned to the State’s Honor Band list.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Civil Discourse

Normally I would leave it to Evie to wax upon civil discourse as she is a stronger expert in the area. Yet the following story has compelled me to comment on the topic.

Below is report of the suspension of three young ladies for uttering “vagina” publicly during a literature reading.

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. -- A Westchester, N.Y., public high school has suspended three 16-year-old girls for saying the word "vagina" during a reading from "The Vagina Monologues."

John Jay High School Principal Richard Leprine said the girls were punished because they disobeyed orders not to say the word "vagina." The school is in Cross River.
Their stand is being applauded by Eve Ensler, the author of "The Vagina Monologues," who said the girls were right for "standing up for
art and against censorship." Ensler called the school's position "a throwback to the Dark Ages."
Ensler, a graduate of Scarsdale High School, said she called the girls to support them.

Honor students Megan Reback, Elan Stahl and Hannah Levinson, included the word because -- as Levinson said "we knew it was the right thing to do. Since we're comfortable saying it, we should make other people comfortable saying it."
The excerpt from "Monologues" was read Friday night, among various readings at an event sponsored by the literary magazine. The girls will all serve one-day, in-school suspensions Wednesday.

Though vagina was in the text they were instructed to leave it out as it could offend some people. The Principal’s response was over the top and counter production to the education process and civil discourse.

In a civil democratic society we need to be engaged in civil discourse so that we have an honest hearing and understanding the views of others. Our education system, our schools, civic clubs and places of worship should be helping to facilitate civil discourse. Vagina is not an offensive word. By restricting its use we end up making it a taboo word. Human sexuality and sensuality is part of our nature, but unfortunately we keep putting up barriers to helping our youth and ourselves from having a balanced view on such matters. Instead we marginalize such matters as a taboo and only to whispered in darkened corners lest others overhear us.

Though some people will be offended for various reasons, in that process of civil discourse we must accept such that there will be some who will be offended. Because I might be offended, of have been offended, on a matter should not then mean that it be removed from the public schools. Once we try to eliminate offending people, we are removing a wide array of matters from public discussion. We all become losers in such an environment.

What I find to be disturbing is that those who would be the first to complain to the school that vagina should not have been used and thereby support the Principal are the first to get upset if a student were to be suspended for talking about Jesus Christ in a classroom or in the cafeteria. Do they not see how the two are linked?

I am heavily influenced by my Wesleyan heritage that holds that public civil dialogue is healthy and welcomed. In the classroom I attempted to get my students to embrace a phrase I have been using since grad school, “let us agree that we will disagree agreeably.” And by disagreeing agreeably on a range of matters, we are all richer because my views have become more rounded, knowledge enhanced and my appreciation for my neighbor deepened.

As an aside, it think that Ensler’s “Dark Ages” comment is equally over the top. She does herself and her cause a disservice to her cause. He reaction is equally as wrong as the school’s. Her comments brings harm to those who seek to have a more balanced approach to education and to civil dialogue. Who she has well served are her strongest opponents by giving them another example of why they hold their views. Ensler has reinforced the fears of her opponents instead of seeking to disarm them.

That is how I see it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ice is Dangerous, even in Portland

Why some people would try to keep going in such conditions is beyond me. Some of the guys keep going and compound their mistakes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

March Photo Challenge

For March's photo challenge, let us post three pictures that are signs of spring's arrival or that it is soon to be at hand. Dad, here is a chance to show us some of your work from your new camera. All the best to one and all.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Musical Weekend

This weekend Evie finds herself alone. Josh departed early Friday morning for San Antonio. I left mid morning for a mid afternoon meeting in Roanoke (4 hr drive) before going to New River (Christiansburg/Blackburg) for the weekend as part of their celebration and dedication of a new Corps building. Jonathan left very early Saturday morning as the National Capitial Band was participating in the New River weekend. Below are two pictures of Jonathan. The band put on an hour concert in the local mall. The last two pics gives you the setting for the concert.

I have been assigned to be the photographer in New River. I have already taken nearly 700 pictures, but only saved about 475. More will be added this morning. Meanwhile Evie has been home helping out Friday and Saturday at Oakton High School with a musical event. Hence, in some way we are all involved in a musical event of some sort.

We will come back together starting late afternoon around 5:30 when I arrive home. Jonathan should be in two and half hours after (he returns on the bus...I have my car), and Josh shortly thereafter would be arriving at National Airport.